Hema Sukumar
July 27, 2023
Final Verdict

About the Author

Hema Sukumar was born in Chennai, India. After studying engineering at university, she worked on a survey ship, which gave her the opportunity to travel the world and write about it. Her travel writing has been featured in various newspapers and magazines in India. She now lives in London. Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartments is her first novel.

Book Review: Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartments by Hema Sukumar

Sneha Pathak reviews Hema Sukumar’s Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartments (Published by Coronet, 2023)

Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartments is Hema Sukumar’s debut novel which is set in the fictional Grand Apartments in Chennai and takes its readers through the life of the various characters who inhabit the place. We meet and become privy to the lives of Kamala, a dentist whose daughter is studying in the UK; Revathi, a thirty-two-year-old professional under pressure to get married; and Jason, a chef who has recently shifted from England to distance himself from the pain of heartbreak. Along with them, we also meet Mani, the owner of the apartment, and Sundu, Kamala’s close friend and a successful lawyer.

We encourage you to buy books from a local bookstore. If that is not possible, please use the links on the page and support us. Thank you.

The Writing

Hema Sukumar draws the reader in right from the beginning when we witness Kamala praying to her Gods as she looks forward to the yearly visit of her daughter, Lakshmi. Unfortunately, Lakshmi’s visit to India doesn’t provide her as much happiness as she had expected because of what Lakshmi wants to share with her mother. On the other hand, Reva is negotiating with the pressures of being an unmarried thirty-two-year-old woman who is constantly pestered by her mother with “good matches” along with office politics that is making her life difficult at work.

The storyline of Jason too keeps the reader interested as we want to know how this British chef will fit in Chennai’s life and whether or not he will be able to get over his heartbreak.

Written in a manner that combines some serious issues with a lightness of touch, Minor Disturbances never becomes a heavy read. There are laugh-out-loud moments even in the midst of serious situations all the characters are dealing with.

The Characters

Sukumar makes it a point to write about things that a lot of readers can identify with – be it the struggle to come out of the closet in front of one’s parents or the threat of the land mafia, be it the immense pressure to get married after a woman reaches a certain age or the constant tug of war between the two generations along with life in a metro city on your own, a lot of readers will be able to relate to one or more of these themes. 

Sukumar has set the book in Chennai and she can create a sense of the place in deft strokes through descriptions that make use of all sensory organs. From the sights and sounds of the city to the smell of jasmine and the taste of ghee dosas, sambhar, and mor kozhumbu, she manages to get the balance right and keep the reader’s attention engaged in the life of her characters. It is also important to note that this is a character-driven novel where a reader’s engagement with the book stems from her investment in the lives of the inhabitants of Grand Apartments.

Hema Sukumar

In fact, in a way, the apartment itself becomes something of a major character as it is the thread that joins all these people together and becomes an integral part of their lives as well as that of the reader for the duration of her reading the novel. The life of the characters at Grand Apartments can be taken as a microcosm and the novel presents a slice-of-life experience to its readers.

Sukumar ensures that she writes with a light touch and humour is imbued throughout the telling of the tale. Whether it’s the description of guests gossiping during a wedding function or the bullying beauty parlour assistant who gets Reva to agree to something she hadn’t originally planned, these incidents are relatable and are sure to bring a smile to the reader’s face.

Bonus points for the cover art which helped me create an idea of what Grand Apartments might have looked like, had it really existed. Even though Sukumar is based in London and the book features various references to and a character from Britain, the book never feels as if it was written with only an international audience in mind, a grouse that I sometimes have with books by Indian authors who live abroad.

An easy and engrossing read, Minor Disturbances at Grand Apartments is recommended for when you are looking for something relatable yet light to read. 

Favourite Quote by Hema Sukumar

“Mani continued to sit on his candy-striped chair as the sun lowered across the horizon, leaving shadows of houses in shapes that he could recall with his eyes closed. He watched a group of dragonflies hover over the hibiscus plants in the garden, the smell of rain bubbling up pleasantly in the air around him.” 

Minor Disturbances at Grand Life Apartment by Hema Sukumar

Have you read this charming and amusing debut novel of a simple life in a small hill town? What do you think of it? Drop a comment below and let us know!

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak

Sneha Pathak loves reading over everything else and has a degree in English Literature. She loves discovering new authors and new books. Her favourite genre is mystery/detective fiction, but she reads all genres with equal gusto and enjoys writing about them. When not reading, she can be found book-browsing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *